Yoga Brought Home

During the outbreak of COVID-19 things have changed. For my Yoga studio that has meant adapting to keep the business going. Adapting to offer something to those of us who go there. I am continually amazed at how we adapt to significant change. There are some people who can’t, depending on their jobs / businesses, but others have the ability to create new ways of working.

I have a job where I have to still have to go in to work. Thankfully I love my job so doing extra just now is a given – no questions asked just get on with it. So how bloody pleased am I that my Yoga Studio in Edinburgh has picked up on the Zoom platform to keep a good schedule of classes going.

Online Fitness

It’s not my first time using Zoom or video meetings / conferences / chats. I am using FaceTime more and more with friends to catch up now that I can’t go out and see them. The group identity is still strong as we FaceTime with a glass of wine, a comfy seat, some music on and chat.

A fellow blogger introduced me to Zoom! Lee did a trial run last week (maybe it was the week before) and so with the app downloaded I was already on-board and online for when my Yoga Studio put out the message that they were starting classes this way.

Thank You and Yeeeeeessss!!! Whilst I will still do Joe Wicks PE (its good fun and you can pick up on it on YouTube even if you missed the live feed) I need Yoga in my life that isn’t the DVD / TV style. No offence to all those lovely people sitting under a tree or in a walled garden doing their yoga to the world….I just like the realism of the instructors I know, the fellow Yogis I see at class and the connection we already all have.

Zoom gives the teachers the ability to watch, correct and interact with us. We get to see faces that we haven’t seen since the studio had to close it’s doors due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

My First Zoom Yoga Class

I am bloody knackered now! I should have pipped for the Yin class but that is not for a few days. So full body flow it was. The funny thing is I thought I wouldn’t work as hard as I usually would when in the studio. But…our teacher was on it, watching and feeding back to us all. It is strange doing it in my living room but I have a mat, blocks and a strap – what more do you need!! I even had a little scent burner going for ambience.

Full body is a mix of things but it definitely includes a lot of strength work. Today thankfully that was legs and back rather than purely focusing on core. So starting off in Dolphin to Down Dog repetitions and moving on to low / high plank repetitions set the tone that by the end of it I expected to be a bit sweaty. When we were popping back from forward fold to plank (and then to chaturanga) I definitely felt like I was working hard!

Moving into back work is my favourite as I really enjoy working on this area of the body. So lots of back bends leading into bow pose. We were then given some pretty ingenious holds for the upper back by holding a V with our forearms out front from warrior two.

Balances. Always a problem for me and I still tried my best even when they could only see me on a little computer screen. Balances with strength holds are even bloody worse but I gave it my best shot! I didn’t even fall over even though I still have a slightly weak ankle from a trip a few weeks back. Go me haha!

Gratitude

A big thing in yoga. Gratitude – yes I am definitely feeling it. For having brilliant colleagues, for all the key workers regardless of what work they are doing, and for staying safe. I was thankful to be on my mat today, just focused on how my body was feeling, what it could do today and my breath. Namaste

A gorgeous spot not far from where I live in Edinburgh.
Photo by Daniil Vnoutchkov on Unsplash

Header Photo by Manja Vitolic on Unsplash

The only girl in yoga

Girl is probably stretching things but you get the gist. To be fair I have a young face. But anyway….more men are now doing yoga. The percentages reported are still a lot lower than women, but it is definitely on the increase. I think this is a good thing.

Last week I was in yin and half of the class were males. I also did a Hatha class and, even though we were a small class (a mid morning one), I was the only female there other than my yoga teacher. All the rest were men. Not skinny yoga looking men either…a real mix of types, body types and abilities. We had an absolute blast all trying to get into side crow from movement of side lunges. There was quite a lot of near death face planting and falling over. Also a lot of laughs.


Men and Yoga

Yoga is still viewed as stretching and flexibility by most men I know who comment. Sure that is part of it but they clearly don’t have a clue how difficult a vinyasa or Hatha class can be. How the edge in Yin makes it the most relaxing and difficult class at times in my yoga schedule.

Yes flexibility is a benefit. I am not flexible but in a year I can see the change. I can also see the change in my strength, balance, focus and movement. That is definitely down to yoga and I think men are starting to see these benefits too. There is nothing worse than building muscle to the point it impedes movement. That is storing up a whole lot of problems.


Benefits of Yoga

Strength, Balance and Flexibility

Some are obvious. Clearly there is strength and flexibility. There are lots of men on instagram nowadays who have amazing bodies and practice yoga regularly (Andy Raab for example). There are ones who can do a perfect movement into handstand and balances (check out Patrick Beach for this); who doesn’t want to be able to do that!

I know men who can’t touch their toes. To be fair I also know women who can’t do this. Yoga helps. In the long run yoga helps with functional movement and that is a brilliant thing. I jump out of bed now in the morning. Even when I was training with a PT doing lots of free weights and Hiit I wasn’t able to do this. There is something about the core strength and movement you get from yoga that helps. Which leads me on to the next benefit.

Good sex

I am not sure I would know as perfection is hard to improve on (haha!). But apparently yoga helps improve sexual prowess. There are men who really should take note of this benefit.

Weight Loss

Some people will tell you it helps with weight loss. I am not convinced as I still think you can’t out-train a bad diet. My backside will back this up (I really should stop drinking red wine…it doesn’t help).

However the thinking is relevant. If you are more mindful of your body and understand it more then you may be more mindful of what you eat. I get this. I can tell where my posture is good and bad, I know when my hamstrings are tight and which side is more out of kilter.

I might start being more mindful of food (and probably add back in a little more HIIT into my training). No one thing works so why not do a bit of everything.

All the Zen stuff

I am not too overboard with this but yoga does calm the body and mind. Do with that what you will. Different people have different needs when it comes to mental well-being and lifestyle.

For me it isn’t a primary reason to do yoga, for some others it will be. For men, there are definitely some at yoga who have told me their jobs and their lifestyle means that they only fully relax on their mat.


Men in Yoga Class

Bring it on. The studio I go to is only just over a year old. I have seen a difference in how many men are going even over that short time. A class full of men was a surprise, but a good one. The thing about yoga is the lack of judgement on each other. There is enough to be thinking about with your own progress.

I like the observations of others in yoga without any judgement. I’m quite happy to observe men in yoga (I nearly deleted that in case it sounded bad…). At least some of them fall over as much as I do.

Photo by Form on Unsplash

Dancers and Dancer Pose

The start of a yoga class can tell you a lot about who is settling onto their mat. There are different types of yogi’s. It is what makes yoga great – different people with different abilities all working towards the same peak pose, or at least a similar peak pose depending on which adaptation you choose or manage.

There are those of us who just flop down into a shavasana, maybe with a comfy bolster under the knees to get settled. There are the more ‘serious’ yoga folk who go through a bit of a routine. Then there are the ones who clearly have had some training in dance. They are doing the leg stuck out and stretching over it; usually very elegantly.

Hamstrings

How do people manage to stretch their hamstrings before they are even just a little sweaty? My hamstrings don’t want to move at all until at least the third downward dog. But hamstrings, chest openers and a bit of a backbend are all needed to get anywhere near dancer pose.

Hips

This is another thing to focus on if you want to notice the variety in the class. It is hard not to stack your hips when balancing but the instructors normally do adjustments to keep your hips squared as much as possible. Especially in triangle, warrior 3 and dancer pose. This hip squaring adjustment thing is hard! My body just wants to fall. Maybe my body is just telling me that my bum weighs too much to be suspended squarely in the air.

Balance

So tree, floating tree thingy, warrior three and dancer pose. All balancing. All probably my least likely poses to do for any length of time. I have this weird thing where I balance better on one leg than the other but the opposite is true when I try and bind my toes and stretch out my leg. If that even makes sense. Basically I can stretch my legs (hamstrings) better on the opposite leg that I can balance on without falling. Frustrating!

It is a journey (I suppose!)

If this happens to you (yeah probably just me!) then it does get better with practice. In class this week I placed myself at the back. I like to think this was so that I wasn’t going to distract the people behind me with my wobbling. It is hard to keep your balance when someone in front is moving a lot. Ok Ok – it was so I didn’t wobble in front of everyone.

I was however rather pleased with myself that I managed all these poses with my hips squared (mostly). The repetition of triangle helped with the hammies and I didn’t fall out of tree even when I moved my arms up from my hips. So I was feeling pretty optimistic about dancer pose when we were getting to the end of class.

Peak pose – Dancer

I always have a bit of a wobble when I catch my foot. I never understand why I am holding it on the inside of the foot rather than the outside as it feels a bit odd. But foot in hand (on my good leg) I did a kind of dancer. Probably not like the image above. Definitely not like the two girls who were clearly dancers in the class and also like the serious yoga who basically did her own class before the class. For me it was an achievement though and there was a little grin from my instructor before she put me off with the grinning and I toppled over. I won’t mention my bad leg attempt. It was less than elegant. All in all this was definitely progress and I felt like dancing down the road home. I didn’t do that – someone would lock me up!

Two Weeks Without Exercise: Back on it!

I woke up at 8.30am today and in a hazy sort of way I grabbed my phone to check what yoga classes were on. I could hear the rain outside and was thinking that my meanderings into the Edinburgh Fringe may have to wait till tomorrow. There was a class at 9.30am (my sleep head was saying this was unlikely) and one at 12.30pm (maybe more likely). This lackadaisical approach stopped suddenly when realisation hit that I haven’t done any yoga or proper exercise for two weeks. The hint really should have come yesterday; when I pulled on a work dress to accompany a friend to a formal appointment. My dress (and it was my ‘I can gain weight and still wear this dress’) was hugging my thighs a little more than normal. So much for my intentions a couple of weeks ago. Those type of intentions where you plan on doing a lot of fitness and eating healthily for the two weeks you have off work. Just over one week in and I have done absolutely nothing.

Excuses

Excuses that run around your head are great. All a load of bollocks, but during that conversation (with yourself…not in a mad way) they all sound sensible. My excuses: I had a busy run up to my leave with work so was getting home late, I deserved a glass of wine after a busy day at work, I am now on holiday (woohoo) and I deserve a lie in, its far too hot (see previous post on the heatwave we had) to exercise and the list goes on. I also pointed out to myself that I had been away with friends to relax and so this clearly should not involve exercising any more than a few countryside/beach walks.

Intentions

Setting aside all those excuses, which I can only now do three hours later, I know my intentions for the last two weeks made much more sense. I planned on working hard up to my leave so that I could focus on eating the right things and doing the right amount of exercise. Whilst I mainly do yoga, I had planned to incorporate some HIIT or even the longer type of Insanity maximum interval training into my routine. My view was that I would have a burst of cardio with the strength building in yoga. Then, when I got back to work, I would get back to fitting in some weight training again. I used to mainly do weights and know the benefits of all round training. My thighs clearly know the benefits of this too.

So the counter to my excuses: work was busy but I could always fit in an hour, my glass of wine could have waited as Shavasana feels just as good, I am now on holiday and so have plenty of time to do everything, I could get out of the heat and hopefully into a cool studio. The counter list goes on.

Getting re-motivated

After realisation hit this morning (like a thunderous slap to my increasingly thunderous thighs) I managed to pull myself together. It was teetering on the edge of decision making and I think I could have gone either way. Weirdly I re-read my own post ‘When you don’t feel like yoga: do yoga‘ which felt a little egotistical but it reminded me of how I feel when I get over the lethargic nature of indecisiveness. I also had a quick look at my post on the ‘Wheel’ and realised that I couldn’t use that one class as an excuse as a quick review of my past bookings at the studio showed a few attendances after the wheel class.

Back on it

I got up. I showered and pulled on my yoga pants and top. I pulled out my yoga mat and bag and shoved on my trainers to walk to class as it was still raining. Decision made – I clicked on the ‘book class’ button. Yep the 9.30am one. A Hatha class not generally for the fainthearted as Clara does slow and strong so I knew my core was going to be worked. On a side note if you are in Edinburgh Clara (her instagram link) is a wonderful yoga teacher who allows you to really focus on the moves, breathing and poses whilst working hard (and relaxed) to get there.

9.30am and I was working on my shoulders. Lots of opening up poses including quite a few times in Dolphin leading to forearm stands. I can’t get fully into the inversion yet but I did do a few hops up. I will practice on my inversion stool this week. 10.45am and I feel like I am back on it. I floated down the road. I do feel better for going and, better yet, I still have 6 more days of leave to reset my intentions. I am going to start logging my food again (this is the only thing that works for me when trying to lose some weight) and possibly do a walk or insanity dvd or even just a bit more yoga by the end of the day. Today I will be keeping my trainers on until this happens and I am not putting that bloody dress back on until I return to work. If I keep to my intentions I know my thighs won’t be protesting too much the next time I wear it.

Picture – trainers and yoga mat bag my own

That one Yoga pose I will never manage

Photo from http://www.pexels.com

Do you have a yoga pose you just don’t like? Or you know is just not achievable (and therefore don’t like it)? There are loads of poses I can’t do. I know, however, that this just means I can’t do them yet. There is one pose that doesn’t fit this mental (and physical) progression. Wheel pose (or Urdva Dhanurasana)! Apparently it is an invigorating pose that requires strength, effort and one which basically uses all parts of the body. Well not my body thank you very much. This isn’t even a pessimistic view – in my opinion. I just know it is a yoga pose that I’ll never manage.

Good advice I am not going to take

I read and view a lot of posts about yoga on twitter, instagram, Pinterest and blogs. It’s great to read the advice, see the pictures, learn the ‘do’s and don’ts’ and also to follow other people in their practice. I have looked at posts on Wheel pose since I first came accross in it a yoga class. Initially I was optimistic. Now I am a realist.

There are a number of other poses that you can practice to prepare for wheel. Upward Dog for opening the chest and backbend – tick. Locust to build back and backside (glutes) strength – tick. Camel pose for stretching the quads, opening the shoulders and of course the backbend – half tick. Bridge pose as a precurser – quarter…ish tick. Bow pose – hmmm, does grabbing one sweaty foot and missing the other count?

The thing about all those other poses is that I know I have progressed in them and I know I will achieve them. So the advice would suggest that I will get into Wheel.

Here is why I won’t. I have strength (I used to lift weights as my fitness routine). I even have core strength and can do a mean, if not sort of perfect, plank. I basically have strength in isolation. So putting together back strength, core strength, quads, glutes, arms and shoulders all together leads to me having no strength. This sounds weird but in bridge pose my legs quiver, my stomach protests and my backside just wants to land back on the mat. Never mind the fact that my boobs interfere with my chin regardless of what sports bra they are strapped into. I also have tight shoulders and no matter how many weights I used to lift (chest press using the bar was a favourite) there is no way my arms are holding me up into a Wheel. The one bit of advice a teacher gave which I thought was a gem was that basically your hand placement is pushing one way and your feet placement is pushing the other way so the middle of you will lift. Again on paper this sounds weird but in practice I totally get it. The problem is my practice doesn’t involve that lift.

What happens when it is part of the class

This occurred on Tuesday. My Tuesday yoga teacher is fab and her classes are hard (in that they push you physically) but satisfying. So when she said that we would be working towards Wheel my heart sank a little. I had to have a talk to myself. Not out loud (that would be embarrassing). I set my intention that my practice in the class would be to be strong and to build on what I could achieve. To be fair the classes I go to are so supportive and don’t group you into levels. So nobody feels under pressure to achieve the ‘peak’ pose and all levels are pretty much celebrated by everyone. It also felt great to hear her [yoga teacher] admit this was one of her least liked poses and that this was a good reason to practice it. Fair enough and I am ok with the practicing. I just know I won’t get there.

We did all the aforementioned poses throughout the vinyasa class. We got to Bridge pose and I did my best Bridge yet. This was an acheivement! My teacher had good hints about blocks against the wall for Wheel practice (either for your feet or hands depending on what you felt you needed to assist). I tried this. I still failed to get into Wheel. I’m ok with this. I know it is that pose I will never manage. So I did a better Bridge. Better than my previous bridges and was pretty chuffed with that. When it comes up again I will practice my Bridge. Hopefully my legs will stop shaking, my feet will stop sweating and my backside will lift to the sky (there is no hope that my boobs will not attempt to suffocate me). But this will be in Bridge. There is no way I am getting to Wheel.

P.S

If I ever do manage to do a Wheel I take all this back!